The Blue Porpoise

       Duncan Leigh / Humor / Actions & Adventure
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The Blue Porpoise
By Duncan Leigh
Copyright 2016 Duncan Leigh
Smashwords Edition
Smashwords Edition License Notes
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For Marsh Ink

'No good fish goes anywhere without a porpoise.'
Lewis Carroll
The Blue Porpoise
The blue porpoise meandered across the Marsh, wholly unaware that this would be its final journey. Inevitably, it had had to stop at the pelican in Dymchurch and, again, at the lights in New Romney but, in spite of these arrests, it had passed without arousing suspicion or even a second glance. You might be wondering how this could be possible. After all, it's not every day that a blue porpoise can be seen cruising the Queen's highway in broad daylight. Such occurrences are, however, more common than you might think. One should bear in mind that it was the middle of November and the weather was hostile, to say the least: whistling westerly wind, marching mammatus clouds, lashing rain showers. As a result, locals were mostly out of sight, indoors. In any case, they were not easily impressed; surreal sightings had always been part of life on the Marsh.
The porpoise in question belonged to a young man called Lou. He had recently inherited it from his one-legged grandfather. His gran had decided to offer it to Lou for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, she was too old to look after the porpoise herself but, also, she had felt sorry for her grandson because he was starting out in life and, from her perspective, hadn't had much luck so far. The blue porpoise would help him, she thought.
Lou was not the most caring of owners, it turned out, and the porpoise found itself feeling a bit neglected at times. He did love the porpoise, however, and the pair soon developed an understanding. Like many of its kind, the porpoise had experienced maltreatment at the hands of humans. Vividly, it could recall one of its earliest memories, a particularly unpleasant occasion while resting in a bay on Merseyside. All shiny and new, the porpoise had been enjoying a rest and the quiet warmth of the sun. It was such a beautiful, still day - not the norm in those parts - and Lou's grandparents had gone to buy ice cream (a mint choc ice for grandad and a plain cone for gran). All of a sudden, the porpoise had felt itself being scratched, from nose to tail, all the way down its left flank. There was a pause and then the same thing happened to its other side (but this time the score ran in the opposite direction). An unfamiliar human then came into view, holding something in its hand that glistened and sparkled in the light. The item was pocketed and, without rhyme or reason, the mysterious figure nonchalantly wandered off. The porpoise would soon learn that humans were capable of unkind, even cruel, behaviour but that most of them were in fact friendly and considerate, if a little unpredictable. Using some blue touch-up paint, Lou's one-legged grandfather had tended to the blemishes on the porpoise's sides. He knew that those hides were tough, that a scallywag armed with a stanley knife could cause no serious harm to his porpoise, but the wanton, wilful damage had caused him a fair degree of distress nonetheless. In the end, the scars could only be seen under bright light and close scrutiny. But the porpoise knew they were there.
On another occasion, while cruising on the M62, some chippings had been flicked up into the path of the oncoming porpoise. They had spattered against its nose, denting it in a number of places. Again, the damage had been superficial and the porpoise had forgiven Lou's grandfather for not keeping his distance on a newly surfaced road. He had always had a heavy right foot, something that ran in the family (the porpoise would soon learn).
Marsh life was far more agreeable to the porpoise. For starters, the light was so much better and, even on dismal days like this one, there seemed to be abundant space. Yes, there were plenty of bottlenecks - in the summer visitors could really clog the place up - but the pace of life was less stressful. There were no motorways, either, so the porpoise's modest (1.3 litre petrol) motor was rarely overworked. Instead, the regularly twisting roads - and a myriad of daunting, gorge-like ditches - encouraged more sensible speeds and sweeping, rolling cornering. Make no mistake though, the porpoise was no slouch and her rounded, almost boxy, appearance hid a four-speed automatic transmission (for obvious reasons, Lou's disabled grandfather struggled with a manual gearbox) complete with kickdown facility. The kickdown operated when the accelerator pedal was pressed quickly to the floor, resulting in the porpoise dropping a gear and leaping forward like a torpedo from its hatch. Lou loved to put the porpoise through her paces, but he also kept an eye on the fuel gauge and an ear on the revolutions. He didn't have much disposable income at the time and, aside from an unfortunate incident involving the then unfamiliar automatic gearbox and a brick wall, he tried to take good care of the porpoise and always spoke affectionately of and to her. Admittedly, he could be a touch forgetful when it came to maintenance, servicing, tyre pressures and the like, but he was still learning and steadily appreciating that 'if you look after your tools, they will look after you'. Porpoises were the same, he figured.
They had already had a number of adventures together. The morning after a night out, Lou had been unable to find his porpoise, at first, but soon realised that his friends had picked it up, moved and plonked it down in the middle of a neighbour's garden. With a kerbside weight of about 800kg, the porpoise had taken a bit of shifting but the self-proclaimed Magnificent Seven had been inspired and powered by beer - they felt that they were capable of achieving anything at the time and the jape was soon completed, amidst much giggling. They soon discovered that Lou frequently left the porpoise unlocked, with the keys in the door pocket, and took to taking and piloting the porpoise to some hiding place or other. After all, this was far easier than lifting it and, provided they were careful (not to berth it too far away, or get caught), neither Lou nor the porpoise minded too much. In fact, Lou was pretty relaxed about most things, having decided some time ago that he was going to be a lifestyle man, holding scarce regard for a mainstream career or future.
On this particular journey, Lou was travelling with his fellow freestyler and colleague, Dean Cassady. They worked together selling water sports equipment - extreme water sports equipment, that is, not flippers and lilos. Costigan & Cassady were as thick as thieves and living the dream, as they saw it. They were in a bit of a rush and the kickdown had already been employed several times, to nip past some of the Marsh's truly slow vehicles: a rusted David Brown, a 'static' in transit from New Beach Holiday Park, a wobbling bicycle under a fisherman and his bag of lug. They had all picked the wrong day to make their journeys but the boys were guilty of no such poor judgement…
Their timing was perfect. Atop the porpoise were strapped a couple of windsurfing boards and, inside, an assortment of masts, sails, booms, wetsuits, ropes and towels littered the back seat and boot space. A promising forecast had come to fruition, for once, and the pair of adventurers had successfully campaigned to get the afternoon off work so that they could play in the wind and waves off Camber Sands. It helped that their boss was something of a Peter Pan, or at least thought he was.
The boys were in euphoric mood. With New Romney behind them, the porpoise veered off the A259 on to Romney Road (the A2075). As they journeyed south, past the barren golf course and then the equally quiet airfield, the sky brightened towards the west and the wipers were switched to intermittent. The warm front was passing but the wind remained, however, and buffeted the porpoise as it trundled along. On reaching the settlement of Lydd, Lou steered the porpoise left on to Harden Road. Having been caught in the congestion of Lydd's 'central business district' before, Lou invariably opted for the 'bypass'. This suited the porpoise just fine; she loved the open road. Harden became Robin Hood Lane and then Tourney Road took the trio back to the A2075.
On leaving Lydd, Lou kicked down and turned the stereo up a notch, as if to herald the start of the final, and finest, part of the outward leg. The destination was always Camber Sands, either Jurys Gap or the Marina Café, depending on the wind direction and the state of the tide. Today, the water would already be on the shingle bank at 'Jurys', so they would be parking at the café and then sailing upwind to the harbour, where refraction of the waves led to them being more spaced out and the wind, quite westerly today, would hold the faces up for longer. Also, time was not on their side; it would be dark by five or half past, depending on the weather.
The porpoise purred on. Away to the left, the silhouette of the power station appeared suitably foreboding, through the mesh fence of the Lydd ranges. The occasional red flag flickered, almost solidified by the near nuclear winds. It was rumoured that old vehicles were accepted by the MoD and employed, somehow, as moving targets. The blue porpoise was not aware of this hearsay. On the right,
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